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No building permit for RV park wall

It's no secret there have been a few controversies when it comes to the new River Hills RV Park development along Highway 59 South.

With Detroit Lakes city council final approval of the plat in June, developer Pat Onstad began the construction this summer. However, there is now a new complaint being looked into.

Henry VanOffelen, a natural resource scientist for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, brought a retaining wall to the attention of some Detroit Lakes city officials.

"To my surprise, this construction apparently involves building a 300-foot-long concrete retaining wall that appears to be at least 10 feet tall," he wrote in a letter to Mayor Larry Buboltz.

He said in plans reviewed by the Pelican River Watershed District, Detroit Lakes City Council and Department of Natural Resources there was a bold line in the drawings, but that the legend suggested it was a silt fence and not a retaining wall.

Developer Pat Onstad says that's not true.

He said the retaining wall was noted in the maps and narration of the plan, and was approved by the Pelican River Watershed District as part of the storm water plan.

"Certain people didn't notice (the retaining wall plans) and are now all up in arms," Onstad said.

Buboltz said while the retaining wall wasn't included in the original Environmental Assessment Worksheet, it was in the plans approved by the Pelican River Watershed District.

He said the city hasn't given the developer a building permit for the wall because Building Inspector Cal Mayfield Jr. said the wall wasn't engineered properly and required an engineering permit for the approval.

Mayfield said the wall has not had any inspections as to the size of the footings, size and spacing of the rebar.

"That portion of the retaining wall that has been poured is 11 feet, 4 inches tall at the highest point, and 8 feet tall at the shortest point," he said. "The contractor told me this section is 150 feet long. The wall is to have dirt full height and length.

"The map of the park also shows six trailers within close proximity of this wall. My concern is that the lateral pressure applied to this structure is greater than it can withstand."

Onstad said he didn't know he needed the building permit to have the wall, but is working on getting one at this point.

"From what I can see, if someone would have built a house (on that property), they would have done the same thing," Buboltz said of the retaining wall.

He said by his calculations, the wall won't be seen from Highway 59, and barely seen from the Pelican River. He added that the developer has agreed to landscape and plant trees in front of the wall, facing the river.

In VanOffelen's letter, he added that the plans being approved in this manner, "speaks volumes on the lack of planning and oversight of this project to date." He went on to list city zoning ordinances not allowing the wall.

"Clearly, the ordinance prohibits this wall and probably many of the current activities near it," he wrote.

Buboltz disagrees.

"Water drainage will not change at all," he said.

Without the wall, Buboltz said the rainwater would run down the hill into the river. With the wall, the water would actually be diverted from the river.

Onstad said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was out to the site Tuesday and approved the plans. He plans to have the construction done and sites ready by spring 2007.